Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 6/2/2009

Ever-optimistic realtors claim steady sales transactions at foreclosure auctions bode good news for the housing industry but realists point out that market is dominated by bottom feeders. The general economy is not supporting re-investments; no one is certain if and when it will recover.

Managers of federal housing funds in Texas cities continue to catch flack: Jerome Walker of Fort Worth was fired for several mishaps and 35 owners of shoddily-build houses in San Antonio sue.

For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles in economic, social and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at bmccarver@austin.rr.com

U.S. Economy: Home Resales Rise on Drop in Prices
By Bob Willis           Bloomberg Press        May 27, 2009
Home resales in the U.S. rose for the second time in three months in April as foreclosure auctions and cheaper prices spurred bargain hunters, buttressing the case for an end to the industry’s slump this year.

Purchases increased 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 4.68 million, in line with forecasts, from 4.55 million in March, National Association of Realtors figures showed in Washington. The median price slumped 15 percent from a year earlier, the second-biggest drop on record. A separate report indicated that the slump in home values eased in the first quarter.

“There is some bottom-fishing going on,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of U.S. economic research at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York. Still, “we have a ways to go in the housing recession.”

About 12 percent of U.S. homeowners late paying or foreclosed
By Lynn Adler        Reuters       May 28, 2009
NEW YORK  – One of eight U.S. households with a mortgage ended the first quarter late on loan payments or in the foreclosure process in a crisis that will persist for at least another year until unemployment peaks, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.

U.S. unemployment in April reached its highest rate in more than a quarter century and is still rising, helping propel mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures to record highs.

Windstorm bill goes on to governor’s desk
By Leigh Jones       Galveston County Daily News       June 2, 2009
Legislation overhauling the state’s windstorm insurer of last resort for coastal communities is a good compromise, say advocates for the insurance industry and coastal property owners.

The Texas Senate passed the plan unanimously Monday, the final day of the 2009 legislative session. House members passed the bill without any opposition late Sunday.

Mirasol owners to sue KB, realty
By Josh Baugh      San Antonio Express-News      May 27, 2009
About 35 homeowners from the San Antonio Housing Authority’s beleaguered Mirasol Homes neighborhoods plan to file lawsuits today against KB Home and Magi Realty alleging that their residences were poorly constructed.

The homeowners, all represented by the Law Offices of Frank Herrera, will file individual suits and have access to all information already gathered by Coats Rose, the firm representing SAHA in its ongoing case against KB Home.

Remedial Reading for Mayors
Fort Worth Weekly      June 1, 2009
Last week, Fort Worth fired its man in charge of handling funds for inner-city housing – mostly money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing Director Jerome Walker was canned, in part, because the city couldn’t tell HUD where $11 million a year was being spent, why the department had processed only six loans out of 200 inquiries, and why the contractors hired by the city had been allowed to do substandard work.

Officials split over affordable housing
Some say city has too many projects; others say there is still a need for more.
By M.B. Taboada          Austin American-Statesman        May 30, 2009
GEORGETOWN — A proposed housing project for low- to moderate-income families is stirring a debate about whether this Williamson County city is providing enough housing for such families and is challenging some residents’ ideas about the city’s identity.

The City Council is divided on the proposed Sierra Ridge development — voting last month 4-3 against giving the Georgetown Housing Authority, which is a co-developer, an extension to its April deadline to begin the 188-unit, $23 million dollar project. In effect, the city pulled $700,000 for infrastructure improvements around Sierra Ridge.

Council members who have taken office over the past two years have swung the council against paying for the project. They point out that the 50,000-resident city has more than two times the amount of tax-credit affordable housing than other cities its size. More than half of the city’s 3,600 multifamily units are government-subsidized.

Alamo Heights sees its future in the past
By Colin McDonald      San Antonio Express-News      May 30, 2009
Alamo Heights is about to face reality.

For the past nine months, the city has been asking residents and business owners to imagine everything they ever wanted the city to be. The result was a comprehensive plan envisioning an environmentally aware, pedestrian-friendly village where people can shop, work and go to school by walking, bicycling or a taking a short trolley ride.

Now as residents turn up their air conditioners and start circling parking lots to minimize walking, the city is going to find out how many of those ideals can be achieved. On Tuesday night, the City Council voted to adopt the plan as a 15-year guiding document.

“We think it’s asinine,” said Jimmy Satel, a part owner of the men’s clothing store Satel’s. “They want to make this where families can walk and bicycle down here. That’s wonderful, but it’s not great for retail.”

Eco-friendly community construction may start soon
310-acre development aims to reuse scarred site of former caliche pit

By Karen Smith Welch      Amarillo Globe       May 31, 2009
The first visible sign of an ecologically sustainable community should rise soon on the western horizon outside Amarillo.

Natural Systems Developers will launch construction of a hospitality center for the proposed Mariposa ecoVillage, a concept that has – like other natural things – evolved over time on a 625-acre site owned by Bushland-based environmentalist and philanthropist Mary Emeny.

First envisioned by another company and designer as a $600 million to $800 million community of rammed-earth homes, businesses and conservation grounds, the project being carried out by Natural Systems and its CEO, Linda Lloyd, has been scaled down while remaining true to its ecologically friendly roots, she said.